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ACR sends letter to Congress outlining health care reform priorities

January 18, 2017

ATLANTA - The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) sent a letter to Congressional leaders ahead of actions on health policy, urging lawmakers to adopt a healthcare reform plan that is consistent with the ACR's priority of affordable and accessible healthcare for Americans living with rheumatic diseases.

The ACR stressed in the letter that any proposal should maintain the current ban on insurers excluding coverage due to pre-existing conditions; provide insurance coverage for rheumatic disease specialists and services; maintain coverage of health educational activities for patients with chronic illnesses; limit patient co-payments for specialty drugs and services; and recognize that laboratory, radiological, and infusion services should be conveniently available near the source of a rheumatology patient's medical care.

"More than 52 million people in the U.S. - one in six Americans - live with rheumatic diseases, making it the nation's leading cause of disability," said Dr. Sharad Lakhanpal, MBBS, MD, President of the ACR. "Early and appropriate treatment for rheumatic diseases like arthritis and lupus, provided by trained rheumatologists, can prevent or slow disease progression, decrease the likelihood of disability, and reduce long-term healthcare costs. The ACR looks forward to working with both Congress and the incoming Administration to ensure that every American has access to affordable, high-quality healthcare, including care for arthritis and other rheumatic diseases."

The letter stressed the need to ensure clinical rheumatologists are able to run viable medical practices, noting both the growing scarcity of rheumatologists and the increasing demand for rheumatology care.

"The CDC estimates that one in four Americans will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis by the year 2040," continued Dr. Lakhanpal. "With the rates of doctor-diagnosed arthritis on the rise, a thriving rheumatology workforce and affordable access to specialists and treatments will be critical to ensure we meet the care needs of a growing patient population."

Additionally, the ACR recommended that any reform proposal:
  • Repeals the Independent Payment Advisory Board provision;

  • Minimizes administrate burdens through the use of universal prior authorization systems for multistate health plans; and

  • Maintains the FDA's authority to approve safe, effective biosimilars to encourage market-based relief from the high costs of biologic drugs.

Read the full text of the letter here.
-end-
The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) is the nation's leading advocacy organization for the rheumatology care community, representing more than 6,400 U.S. rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals. As an ethically driven, professional membership organization committed to improving healthcare for Americans living with rheumatic diseases, the ACR advocates for high-quality, high-value policies and reforms that will ensure safe, effective, affordable and accessible rheumatology care.

American College of Rheumatology

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